If you’re considering ducks, The Resilient Gardener
by Carol Deppe contains an excellent counter-cultural explanation of
how to maintain ducks under permaculture conditions. I
posted over on our homesteading blog a few weeks ago about Deppe’s take
on the pros and cons of ducks vs. chickens, as well as her information
on feeding ducks garden produce. Here, I wanted to delve a little deeper into Deppe’s thoughts on duck feed, and, especially on pasturing ducks.
The first question I had
when I decided to try out ducklings was, “Can I just feed them the same
food I give my chickens?” The answer is “Maybe.” If you’re
keeping ducks in confinement, they need a special food high in niacin,
and ducklings should never be given medicated chick feed. In
addition, Deppe suggests that ducklings need to eat moistened feed for
their first few weeks. Despite these caveats, though, chances are you can
raise ducklings on chick starter feed as long as you choose the
unmedicated version. If your ducklings are allowed to free range,
bugs will provide their niacin (or you can give them extra niacin in
their water or can provide brewer’s yeast as a nutritional
supplement). And, as I learned, dry feed is perfectly acceptable
to baby ducks as long as they have plenty of water to drink and play in.
So how about pasture
food? Deppe recommends sowing white clover in pasture rather than
grass if you want your ducks to do lots of grazing. And even
though ducks don’t scratch like their land brethren, both types of fowl
agree that mulched spots are prime forage. Deppe likes to keep six
to twelve inches of mulch under her trees, through which her ducks bill
in search of night crawlers, red worms, sowbugs, and slugs.
Finally, she adds that windfall fruits can provide a good supplement to
ducks’ diets, especially if you plant mulberries.
I’ll be curious to see how our ducks differ from our chickens once the
former are all grown up. At the moment, the ducklings have given
me absolutely no data on pasture preferences since they prefer to spend all of their time in the water. Stay tuned for future details!